Every phone call my mom makes is about one of two things.
The first is a recent tragedy in the Dallas Indian community. A man screwed over some family by underhandedly forcing a foreclosure of their motel, buying it on the cheap, and then selling it for a million dollars more. The son of the family, a boy about my age, got himself a gun and planned to kill him.
His dad tried to stop him, and in the ensuing struggle, the gun went off, killing his father.
And his mother, who was behind him.
He apparently called his sister to tell her what had happened, and then he shot himself.
The man has now been completely ostracized from the Indian community. All his positions have been relinquished, and he is on a one-year blacklist from any sort of events. Or something.
The second is, of course, the search for my wife. Oh, we're looking, and we'd prefer someone from here, but if we don't find someone, we'll be going to India next year. The threat of India in December has been constant for years, and one of these years, they're going to make good on it.
My little sister gets a new (used) car, a 2009 Chevy Impala. Sadly, she does not watch Supernatural and does not understand why I quip that her trunk could hold a lot of shotguns.
She has started her first year of college and spends most of her time studying. My brother has started his first year of medical school and spends most of his time studying. We visit him at his apartment for a little bit. It's a nice place.
I have come just in time for Diwali. There is a Diwali dinner on Saturday that we must go to so I can say hello to various members of the community who haven't seen me in a while, and vice-versa. It's strange to see kids all grown-up. They look like bigger versions of their littler selves instead of real people.
Diwali marks the end of the year in our calendar, and we wish people sal mubarak (happy new year) afterward. When someone wishes you sal mubarak, you give them your blessing, and sometimes cash. We visit relatives on Sunday who do give us cash. Eleven dollars (it's bad luck to give an amount ending in zero). That eleven dollars is only mine for a short time, as my dad tells me to donate eleven dollars to the Hindu temple as thanks for my promotion. I feel strange donating to a temple where I stand in front of idols, close my eyes, fold my hands, and pretend to pray on the off-chance that Someone is paying attention, but I consider it a donation to the sense of community the temple fosters.
We visit a couple other small temples that day, ones I didn't even know existed. My parents drop in small donations, but I do not, having no obligation to them.
Monday is the official start of the new year, and I sal mubarak my grandfather, who gives me money. My mom also gets money from her father-in-law, and when I sal mubarak her, she gives it to me. When my dad comes home, I also get money from him. Sixty-seven dollars in total that is only mine for a short time, as my mom tells me to give my sister fifty-one dollars for Bhai Beej, when sisters cook meals for their brothers (my sister buys me a Potbelly sandwich since she knows I love Potbelly and don't get it in California). Fifty-one dollars is the minimum I am supposed to give her for this every year (and also on Raksha Bandhan); I only have one sister and I should appreciate her even though she does not want cash from me (she wants Threadless shirts). I am also supposed to give my brother cash for sal mubaraking me, but I tell my parents we have an arrangement. Being Indian is all about giving people money, it seems.
On the way home from the airport Friday night, we stop at Taco Bueno, because I must have my Taco Bueno, whose burritos are superior to Taco Bell's. I have both burritos and Indian food for dinner.
On Saturday, my sister and I skip out on the Diwali Night program and try out Prince Lebanese Grill, which was somehow featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives despite being in frickin' Arlington. It's cool because it's in what used to be a Sonic. Unfortunately, both the falafel sandwich and dolmas are subpar and not as good as those I had at a Mediterranean place in Mountain View. I am disappointed in you, Guy Fieri.
On Sunday, our various travels take us to Taj Chaat House, where we feast on masala dosa, aloo tikki, and pani puri. I also buy a Limca for old times' sake. I am barely hungry that evening, but my dad really wants to order from Domino's and take advantage of their $5.99 large pizza, so we have pizza for dinner.
Monday, my dad has a drug rep lunch, so we order from Olive Garden. I get chicken and gnocchi.
Dinner is at Campo Verde, our favorite Mexican restaurant. They have seasoned chips and salsa and queso. My dad bewilders our cute waitress by asking for warmer salsa; he doesn't want it to be chilled. Sopapillas are newly on the menu, and they are a big hit. I end up surreptitiously dropping another dollar on the table because my parents were undertipping, as they have no concept of appropriate percentages.
Tuesday is leftovers for lunch, Indian food for dinner.
My mom is a fan of procedurals. This time, I watch my first episode of The Mentalist, which is not as identical to Psych as Steve Franks would have you believe. The main characters do share a gimmick, but everything else is different. Jane is more subdued than Shawn, and, if you can believe it, even more arrogant. And the team aspect is a big difference. Robin Tunney is a little less meh than she was on Prison Break. Owain Yeoman was wasted in the first episode I saw, but he had some good scenes in the second episode we watched. I like the Asian guy. And Van Pelt, the redhead, is so freaking pretty. I would watch the show for her if I did that sort of thing. Anyway, I enjoyed the episodes I watched.
I also watch some movies, as Cinemax is good for more than soft porn.
Doomsday: I...have not seen a movie with this many decapitations in a while. I loved The Descent and have been wanting to see Dog Soldiers, so it's disappointing that this movie is...not very good. Rhona Mitra is pretty badass, though. In one scene, she takes down an armored gladiator in her civvies. Later, she drives through a bus.
The Strangers: Holy shit, this is a scary fucking movie. It eschews most horror-movie cliches and opts for being creepy and terrifying in a very minimalist sort of way. The tension builds and it holds. You don't need big-budget special effects; you just need sounds and images and the viewer's imagination. I recommend seeing it if you never want to feel safe again.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: My mom and I saw this for fifty cents, and it was totally worth fifty cents. We actually were a little late, and as soon as we arrived, things exploded for about ten minutes straight. The action scenes were at times incoherent, but they were also at times AWESOME. And they actually bothered to give characters backstories and stuff! Also, the Baroness is superhot and Rachel Nichols has red hair. The overall plot is less incoherent than that of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and it has fewer failed attempts at comedy (although I think the entire cast must have been embarrassed at any point they had to say a catchphrase). If I start to think about it, it is not very good, and, I'm sorry, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but what the living fuck were you thinking. It does, however, have hot chicks and explosions, and I was sufficiently entertained.
Funny Games: Michael Haneke, director of Cache, a movie I absolutely hated, remade his original Austrian film with Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, and some other dude. I thought it would be a good follow-up to The Strangers, as it's another movie about people terrorizing a couple for no apparent reason. But it's not scary or terrifying. It's very...strange. And unnerving. And boring. The two antagonists are very polite, which is kind of amusing. I was intrigued by the reviews that mentioned how the movie broke the fourth wall, but there were only three or four meta moments, and although one of them is a pretty awesome mindfuck, they weren't enough to elevate the movie above its base premise.
Now, I am at my hotel. The original plan was for there to be a clear dichotomy in this trip: before the conference was for them and the conference time was for ME. I don't know why I thought that would work. My current potential future wife happens to be in town for a wedding this weekend, and they are trying to arrange a face-to-face meeting, which will likely mean skipping something at the conference. I have not even exchanged e-mails with this girl, and my parents do not have a good track record of finding girls who click with me. And every single time I was asked whether I would see them after I left for the conference, I said no, but my parents said yes. My dad wanted me to come home Saturday night, as soon as the conference was over. I give them four full days and they still want to monopolize my time. If I knew they were going to be this persistent, I would have scheduled my flight for early Sunday morning to get out of here as soon as possible rather than give myself free time to see people who aren't my parents.
This was supposed to be a good, fun conference. I'm giving a workshop. I'm sitting on a panel. Now I can't even enjoy it.